Don’t Call It A Podcast

I’m so sad that I can’t make it to Podcast Expo this weekend due to schedule conflicts, but if I were there here’s something I’d want to talk about with my fellow podcasters.
In my keynote last year I warned that the name “podcast” was a problem. Not only is the word “pod” closely associated with Apple’s iPod in the minds of listeners, but I also felt, somehow, that the name itself is slightly demeaning. Now, a year later, I think I’ve pinpointed what made me so uneasy about the word “podcast.” It’s become clear to me that there is no such thing as podcasting!

Technically, a podcast is audio or video enclosed in an RSS feed. It’s the RSS feed that magically turns audio or video into a podcast, but why do we focus on the RSS? You don’t distinguish a blog from its RSS feed. There’s no “blogcast.” You talk about radio shows and TV shows, but no one who does a radio show says they do a “radio.”

Podcasts don’t exist separately from their content.

I create shows that are distributed on the Internet via download, Flash, and, oh yeah, RSS, but it’s the show that’s the thing. By focusing on the RSS we’ve confused people and limited our audience. Even the word I suggested last year, “netcast,” doesn’t serve. It’s a show, period. It doesn’t matter how it’s distributed. It’s all just content. Tying the content to its method of distribution is confusing our audience and holding us back.

Words are powerful. Using the right words about what you do is important. It helps you understand what you’re up to and it helps the audience understand what you offer. The word podcasting worked for us in the beginning, but it doesn’t work any more.

I am not a podcaster. I’m a journalist, a pundit, an entertainer. I create audio and video shows and distribute them over the Internet. Maybe that’s YouTube, maybe it’s my own web site, maybe it’s via an RSS feed. The medium isn’t the message – the message is the message. It’s not a podcast, it’s a show, and I plan to call my shows by the right name from now on.

Fellow podcasters, and podcast listeners, what do you think?

Have fun at PME this weekend. I’m with you in spirit!

(On a side note, I’m writing this in the Vancouver airport. It’s not a good idea to blog while eating a Cinnabon®. I need a Handiwipe!)

73 Replies to “Don’t Call It A Podcast”

  1. By rights we should be calling them internet shows. They are shows accessible via the Internet Just like radio shows are accessible via the radio and television shows are accessible via the television.

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  2. I have to agree, no truer words have been spoken, Leo. In our mass comm colleges across the country, students nowadays are taught that the medium is the message and that couldn’t be more offputting. I loved the description you gave about shows and content and I hope you continue to keep on doing what you’re doing.

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  3. Great post Leo! Marc and I decided sometime ago to stop referring to The Wood Whisperer as a podcast, since most of the time an explaination of what a podcast was had to be stated immediatly after. Now we simply call it an online video show. There has been no questions since and we get to the heart of why we are speaking with the person much faster.

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  4. Leo, when I saw this title I thought this post was going to be another call to “netcast” or another term and just want to say I totally agree with this thought process. (“Netcasts you love” is the only part of your shows that has ever made me cringe.)
    When I set up the linklist in my tumblog earlier this year I made a conscious decision to list iptv shows next to tv shows I am watching and audio podcasts next to terrestrial radio shows with no distinctions noted. (Although I admittedly listen to all the radio shows exclusively via podcasts at this point for timeshifting convenience)

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  5. When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message”, he wasn’t talking about tubes, wires, and radio frequencies, he meant that the new forms of communication that the medium enabled were the important thing. The internet enables new patterns and forms of communication, and whether we update our channel via an RSS reader or by visiting a website is a minor detail compared to the {many-to-many, no-FCC-license-required, low-cost} characteristics that are newly added by using the internet.

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  6. Does this mean you’ll be dropping the word “Netcast” from all your webpages and podcast intros?
    If not, this is an empty post. Back up the words.

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  7. From the “About” page of this blog….
    “Hello! My name is Leo Laporte. I’m a technology journalist and podcaster and this is my blog.”
    Q: if you can’t call it a podcast, what is a podcaster?
    Cheers,
    Eric

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  8. Always called my “podcasts” Radio, since most of my listeners have no clue what a podcast is. They tend not to be tech savy, and if I say it’s radio via the internet the understand better.Maybe Radio is wrong too, but it does communicate the idea.

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  9. ‘Podcasting’ has stuck with us, but it hasn’t really become mainstream so I guess it could still be changed.
    How about SOIP (=Show Over IP)? 😉

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  10. 99.9% of the time Leo you are correct – this is the 0.1% you are dead wrong. The name is here for good. It is not going anywhere. Even MS today announced the Zune Market Place is going to support Podcasts. The name has lots of mainstream up take. It is much better than any other name suggested. Please stop fighting wind mills and move on to figuring out how to get more people into podcasting – rather than fighting a loosing fight. One year later and a google for Netcast gives no more results than it did at last years expo.
    Podcast – the name is here for good. Get used to it. Well that is what I think.
    Rob W

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  11. Leo – you will always trump my Podcast and 99.99% of all Podcasts when it comes to audience. However does this mean you are removing the RSS feed and having your show removed from the Podcast section of iTunes and all the other directories – including the new Podcast section in Zune Marketplace? Becasue then “Today in iPhone” would be able to give you a run for your money :^)

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  12. Not at all. I offer podcasts of all my shows. You can _get_ them as podcasts but they aren’t _just_ podcasts. To call them podcasts would be to limit them. In fact, so does “netcast.” I think they’re just shows, period.

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  13. I’ve never gotten used to the term podcast; that word itself deters me from ever making one.
    I agree on the word webcast, or streamcast. Streamcast has a nice ring to it.

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  14. I agree that Leo produces shows but the method by way you can use RSS to download them to your computer is podcasting. As Rob states, that is here to stay. Just as people know what you mean when you say “pass me a Q-Tip, Kleenex, Hoover, Xerox, Taser” etc you don’t literally mean pass me that brand – they are becoming generic terms. If you give it a chance and stop fighting, podcast will too, and Microsoft’s adoption will only help this.

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  15. I’ve been a big supporter of Rob Walch on the “it’s podcasting” but I agree, tentatively, with Leo’s position. They ARE shows. I agree with that. And it gives me pause to consider not using “podcast” as part of the name of my show, etc.
    That said, netcasts is a name that really needs to go away. If it’s really “shows” then you need to change your introduction: “Shows you love from people you trust”

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